Once facing extinction in North America, bison are well on their way to a stunning comeback, LiveScience reports. After commercial hunting and habitat loss reduced their population to less than 1,100, the estimated bison population is approaching 500,000—thanks in large part to conservation efforts started more than a century ago by the American Bison Society and the Bronx Zoo.
Although the majority of bison live on ranches, researchers hope development of a “conservation scorecard” that rates areas for bison habitation will play a pivotal role in the population’s return to the wild. Scientists publishing their findings in April’s issue of Conservation Biology have identified Alaska, Canadian grasslands and parts of the Mexican desert as potential bison repopulation areas. (Read more bison stories.)